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  • Writer's pictureCarly

Costa Rica - 8 Day Itinerary

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Embark on a Magical Week of Adventures in Costa Rica

A Week in Costa Rica, Living the Pura Vida Life

Costa Rica is a breathtakingly beautiful country with so much to explore and discover. We spent a 8 days in La Fortuna and Playa Hermosa, but we explored so much more in our time there. This was our first trip to Costa Rica, so I did a lot of research to figure out where to go and stay in order for us to experience both the jungle and the beaches. I decided to stay in two locations, La Fortuna which is at the base of the Arenal Volcano, and Playa Hermosa which is on the Northwest coast in Guanacaste.

Let's Go!

Usually when I’m planning a trip, I decide on a location and dates we want to travel, then the first thing I do is book flights. We live in San Diego, but we fly out of LAX a lot because it has more flight options and better prices. I booked roundtrip flights from L.A. to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO), which was about a 6 hour flight. I wish I would have booked our return flight out of the Liberia airport, it’s further North and would have been more convenient for our return flight. Now I know for next time!

l booked our rental car at Adobe Rent a Car in San Jose. I did a lot of research on car rental facilities, and I would definitely recommend Adobe. The process was easy and there weren’t any additional hidden costs. Make sure to get 4WD car/suv with automatic transmission, a lot of the rentals are manual. I would highly recommend renting a car rather than hiring a driver or relying on public transportation. We had no issues driving and it was nice being able to have the freedom to explore on our own time. Roads aren’t all clearly marked with signs, but Waze worked just fine getting us where we wanted to go.

Day 1: Travel & La Fortuna

We took the redeye, so landed in the morning and then went and got our rental car. We had about a 2 hour drive to our place in La Fortuna, so we took our time. We stopped for breakfast at a family-owned butterfly sanctuary that had a little restaurant. Coffee was amazing!

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We made it to our place around noon and explored the property before we got into our bungalow later in the afternoon. We stayed at the Casa del Rio, which we absolutely loved. They didn’t have a website when I booked, but they do now so you can see the property and all the amenities. It looks like you still have to book through Airbnb, so here is a link to all of Pablo’s rental properties at Casa Del Rio for booking. The grounds were so lush and beautiful, but also private and secure. There are around 20 bungalows on the property, but we rarely saw other guests. The pool was relaxing, waterslide was fast and fun, fresh eggs from the chickens on the property everyday for breakfast. Howler monkeys everywhere! Only about a mile to town. Went to Lava Lounge & Bar for dinner.

Day 2: La Fortuna & Mistico Hanging Bridges

We woke up early and after breakfast we drove to Mistico Hanging Bridges. The drive was about 45 min and had great views of the Arenal Volcano along the way. We also drove over drive over the Lake Arenal Dam which was really cool.

Arenal Volcano

It’s amazing to get a birds eye view of the rainforest from the hanging bridges! Breathtaking landscapes of the volcano, waterfalls and so much wildlife. I was expecting to see monkeys and sloths, but we also so many different kinds of snakes and insects. There are so many species of butterflies that are so beautiful, vibrant, and huge!

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We were there about 2-3 hours which is a good amount of time to explore and see everything. We could see a storm rolling in, and as we were leaving a torrential downpour started! The rain was so heavy but refreshing. We headed back to town and got lunch at Arabigos Coffee House, an open air café so we could hear the rain.

Then headed back to Casa Del Rio to hang out for the rest of the afternoon in the rain. We swam, played basketball and sat on our porch and watched the monkeys. Later we went to dinner at La Vid Steak House & Pizza.

Day 3: La Fortuna Waterfall

After breakfast then we went to the La Fortuna Waterfall, which was only about a 15 min drive. Wear gym shoes for the hike and bring water shoes for swimming because the rocks are slippery. There are amazing views from the top before you start the long trek to the bottom, which includes about 500 steps. The waterfall is a 250 foot drop to the bright blue swimming hole at the bottom, where you can swim!

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Swimming in the pool at the base of the waterfall was absolutely magical. The water is so blue, the mist creates a beautiful rainbow and the sound of the water crashing is so powerful. After our refreshing dip, we headed down stream to calmer waters where we relaxed and swam. After hanging out for a little bit, we decided to see if the trail would keep going on the other side of the stream and it did. After hiking, we headed back down to the base, and then back up the 500 steps to the top.

We got back to Casa Del Rio and planned on hanging at the pool, getting massages and eating leftovers. Unfortunately, the kids were having a little bit too much fun on the waterslide and Palmer slipped and cut her eye. The staff at our hotel were very nice and brought a first aide kit to the pool and told us where the nearest clinic was. After arriving it was clear we needed a better facility, so we made the drive to Hospital Metropolitano to get her fixed up. They opted for glue instead of stitches, which we were all happy about so she could still swim the rest of the trip!

Day 4: Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

We spent the day at Tabacon Hot Springs, which is an experience like no other. It’s about a 45 min drive from our hotel and is situated on the Arenal Volcano. We got a day pass for the thermal hot spring experience and it did not disappoint. The resort is filled with natural spring water that emerges from the volcanic earth, cascading to form waterfalls, streams, tranquil pools and ponds in the middle of the rainforest. This is the perfect place to completely relax, unwind, let go and allow the healing powers of the mineral water take over.

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After the most wonderful day at Tabacon, a refreshing afternoon storm rolled in, and we headed back to the hotel. We finished the day with a couples massage at our hotel which was the perfect end to our relaxing day.

Day 5: Rio Celeste & Playa Hermosa

We packed up and left La Fortuna around 9am and headed Northwest toward Guanacaste. The night before I had booked an 11am Rio Celeste Tubing Adventure, so that was our first stop. The property was so cool and secluded. It was just the 4 of us and a guide which was nice we weren’t with a group of people. The water is the prettiest color of opaque turquoise, and the rapids are small but enough for us all to have a perma-smile on our faces the entire time! This was so much fun!! We stopped off at a rope swing and hung out there for a while jumping in the blue water on repeat. When we got back to the property, they had fresh fruit waiting for us. We played with their dogs and got in a quick game of foosball, then headed toward Playa Hermosa.

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We stayed at Hotel Bosque Del Mar in Playa Hermosa. It’s situated on the Gulf of Papagayo in Guanacaste, North of Tamarindo. I chose this location because of its laid-back vibe and lack of crowds. The beach is a beautiful, quiet cove that stretches about 2 miles and has only a handful of hotels and restaurants on it. The jungle covers the hotel and goes all the way to the sand, which is something I’ve never experienced before. You can lay at the pool with monkeys in the trees over you, and then take a few steps to the beach and jump in the ocean.

Day 6: Playa Hermosa & Playa Del Coco

Breakfast was complimentary at this hotel as well, so after we ate, we headed out to the beach for the day. We snorkeled, walked along the beach, played football, built sandcastles, and relaxed in inner tubes.

We were laying on the beach and someone walked by and asked if we wanted to rent jet skis, so of course we said yes. The guy said we could go anywhere we wanted on them, no limits :) So we headed over to what looked like one island from our beach, but it turned out to be 3 separate islands when we got closer. When we got to the other side of them, a huge pod of dolphins surrounded us. Swimming under and next to us, we could reach out and touch them. An experience like no other.

After the beach we got cleaned up and headed about 10 minutes South to Playa Del Coco. This area is much more concentrated with people, restaurants, hotels and activities. We enjoyed going there for dinners and shopping, but preferred the serenity of Playa Hermosa for our home base.

Day 7: Playa Hermosa

Another beautiful day at the beach and pool! At lunchtime we walked along the beach and ate at Aqua Sport. We sat at a table in the sand and there was a swing hanging from the tree next to us, which we all took turns swinging on during our meal. Then we headed to the pool at Bosque Del Mar, which is under a canopy of trees that are filled with howler monkeys. Huge iguanas roam around the water and bask in the heat of the rocks by the hot tub and showers.

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We headed back to Play Del Coco in the evening and had ice cream for dinner and wandered around town. Then headed back to the hotel for our last night in paradise.

Day 8: Playa Hermosa & Drive to San Jose Airport

Our flight wasn’t until later in the evening, so we had breakfast at hotel and then headed to the beach for a little bit. After getting cleaned up and packing up the car, we headed Coco Beach for lunch. We had about a 4 hour drive to San Jose, so arrived around 9pm and dropped off the car. Then hopped our flight to LAX and landed safely back in reality.

Costa Rica has so much to offer, and we only saw a small glimpse on our first trip. It proved to be an amazing destination for families, with so much to explore and endless possibilities for adventure and relaxation. We will be back!



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